A few days ago, this past Sunday, something remarkable happened; something rare. When I walked into the church through one of the side entrances, I realized I was like fifteen minutes late, and I felt guilty about it because I had woken up early but was feeling too lazy to get out of bed. I was entirely to blame.
As I tried to find a seat in my favourite spot, second pew from the altar, I realized there was no space, so I walked to the first pew, which was almost empty. I couldn’t shake off this feeling that everyone would notice I’d walked in late, and I must admit, the thought made me feel pretty uneasy, but it didn’t last long…after sitting through the readings we rose to sing and the guilty conscience faded as I sang my heart out.
As I listened to the priest, the popular hymn, ‘I surrender’ came to mind. It was after a brief soul searching that made me so aware of the fact that I often feel disappointed because I try to manipulate things so they turn out the way I want them to. I wasn’t too happy about it, and as I looked up at the image of the crucified Christ nailed on the huge cross fixed on the wall, penitent, the only words that came to mind were, I surrender.
As the offertory procession took their gifts to the altar, a young lady, who seemed like she was in her early twenties scurried to the altar. She particularly caught my attention because as opposed to the other offertory bearers, who walked gracefully, she took quick, short steps, as if afraid she would get there late. I surmised that either she hadn’t planned on it; it was a last minute decision, or maybe she had considered it earlier but had developed cold feet and was rushing before her courage waned. The other thing that got me all curious was that she didn’t have any offertory, just a tiny swaddled baby in her arms.
Those in front of her handed their offertory, one after the other, to the priest, who in turn passed them to the altar boys. Eventually, the young lady’s turn came. She placed her baby in the priest’s outstretched arms. Subsequently, he turned to face the enormous crucifix, his back to the congregation. With his gaze fixed intently on it, he held the baby aloft, in complete surrender, and at that moment the story of Hannah-Samuel’s mother-came to mind.
1 Samuel 1:11, Hannah made a solemn promise: “Lord Almighty, look at me, your servant! See, my trouble and remember me! Don’t forget me! If you give me a son, I promise that I will dedicate him to you for his whole life…”
As the magnitude of that gesture dawned on me, tears welled up in my eyes. She was offering her child to God; surrendering the baby to His holy will; to bless, to guide, to do with as He pleased.
I just stared at her in admiration as the priest turned around to put the baby back in her arms. There were some whispered murmurs from the rest of the congregation and even though I couldn’t make out what they were saying, I imagined that like I, they too had been completely taken aback by that noble gesture.
Coincidentally, during thanksgiving, the lively choir sang the hymn, “All to Jesus, I surrender; all to Him I freely give…” Gladly, I sang along, thinking it was too much of a coincidence; it was all about surrendering.